• Jocelin Donahue reflects on the scrapped plans for a
    Doctor Sleep
    sequel and the potential for exploring more family history.
  • Mike Flanagan’s unique approach to the movie saw major changes from Stephen King’s source material, including the familial connection between Danny Torrance and Abra.
  • Flanagan had plans for multiple
    Doctor Sleep
    follow-ups, including a prequel focusing on Hallorann and a sequel centered on Abra, but they were canceled after the movie’s box office underperformance.

As Mike Flanagan wraps up another Stephen King adaptation, Jocelin Donahue reflects on his plans for a Doctor Sleep sequel. The 2019 movie served as an adaptation both of King’s 2013 novel of the same name and The Shining and Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the latter, following an adult Danny Torrance as he finds himself having to protect a young girl with shining abilities from a vampiric group known as the True Knot while also battling his inner demons. Led by Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson, the movie garnered largely positive reviews from critics, but was a box office disappointment.

During a recent interview with Screen Rant for the upcoming crime thriller The Last Stop in Yuma County, Donahue was asked about the scrapped plans for a Doctor Sleep 2. Though the star indicated she didn’t have concrete conversations with Flanagan about the Abra-focused follow-up, she did confirm that the two talked about a divisive element of King’s source novel that was left out of the 2019 movie that the sequel would’ve explored. Check out what Donahue shared below:

Jocelin Donahue: We didn’t really talk about it at that point, the movie wasn’t out yet, and this is all pre-COVID. And, of course, things changed with how things get greenlit. But we definitely talked about the book a lot, and of course, with my character, there’s a lot more family history that wasn’t explored yet. So, if it ever does come about, I think it would be a super interesting story to tell, for sure.

And I think Abra’s character just, Kyleigh did such a great job with that role, and I’d love to see her continue that story, as well. You can’t control the timing of everything when something comes out. But what feels good is when something sticks around, and has legs, and people come back to it, or people hear about it, it’s still out there for people to discover. And you never know, maybe it will turn into more future projects.

Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep Changes Explained (& Why They Worked)

With Flanagan having taken a unique approach to making Doctor Sleep as both a faithful adaptation of King’s novels and a sequel to Kubrick’s movie, the 2019 effort ultimately saw a number of changes to its source material. The one Donahue alludes to above is that of the Torrance family’s lineage, in which a visit to Abra’s grandmother, who is also absent from the movie, reveals that she had an affair with Danny’s father Jack, thus giving birth to Abra’s mother, making the young character Danny’s niece.


How Doctor Sleep’s Ending Honors Stephen King’s The Shining

The Doctor Sleep movie is mostly a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining movie, but its ending pays tribute to the end of Stephen King’s book.

Flanagan did include a nod to this plot point in Abra and Danny’s introduction scene in Doctor Sleep, in which the former says they can explain their interactions as his being her “Uncle Dan” rather than a stranger with a child in the park. While some purists argue that this took away from the unique worldbuilding of King’s source material, others have acknowledged that this change created a deeper connection between Danny and Abra in the movie, better tying into his redemption arc by risking everything to save someone in need rather than a long-lost family member.

The two other major changes made for the Doctor Sleep movie come in the third act, when Dan and Abra look to confront Rose the Hat at The Overlook Hotel. In the book, the hotel is still burned down after Jack blew it up, and Abra is absent from the final fight, whereas in the movie, the two enter the still-standing building and Dan confronts some of his past demons there, including his father. The ending also saw Danny sacrifice himself by blowing up the Overlook to save Abra and put an end to the hotel’s horrors, which sold King on the movie as a whole.

Could Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep Follow-Ups Still Happen?

Interestingly, in the lead-up to the movie’s release, Flanagan had revealed plans for two very different Doctor Sleep follow-ups. The first of which was a prequel movie entitled Hallorann, which would’ve explored the origin story of the titular Overlook head chef who had first helped Danny understand the nature of his abilities, though fell victim to his father’s murder spree. Warner Bros. had actually tasked Flanagan with penning the script for the project after having plenty of confidence in his Doctor Sleep vision, though due to the movie’s underperformance at the box office, it found itself cancelled.


Canceled Shining Prequel Would’ve Properly Fixed King’s Movie Problem

The unmade Shining prequel focused on Dick Hallorann could have further remedied Stephen King’s disappointment with The Shining movie.

The other major Doctor Sleep sequel idea Flanagan had was a direct follow-up to the 2019 movie that would’ve continued the story of Kyleigh Curran’s Abra as she continues to master her shining abilities. Unlike Hallorann, the project never got a confirmation of having been ordered by Warner Bros. for a script, with Flanagan having only gotten King’s permission to develop a story on the idea.

Given WB was quick to cancel Hallorann after Doctor Sleep‘s disappointing box office run, there’s still a chance they could find their way back to moving ahead with his follow-up plans. Flanagan remains steeped in the world of Stephen King with his upcoming adaptation of The Life of Chuck, and though it doesn’t have a theatrical release date yet, should it prove a hit, the studio could reconsider. Additionally, with WBD moving ahead with their IT prequel show, Welcome to Derry, its success could reinstate their confidence in Flanagan’s visions as either a streaming-focused release, or proper theatrical effort.

Doctor Sleep

Based on Stephen King’s book of the same name and the sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep follows an adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) as he confronts his past at the Overlook Hotel. When a young girl named Abra reaches out to Danny using the telepathic Shine, he learns that she is being hunted and reluctantly becomes her protector. With the Overlook Hotel holding the key to Danny’s own power, he’s forced to return in order to finally move on. 

Release Date
October 30, 2019

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

Carl Lumbly , Ewan McGregor , Bruce Greenwood , Emily Alyn Lind , Rebecca Ferguson , Alex Essoe , Kyliegh Curran , Zahn McClarnon

153 minutes

$55 million

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